Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price took exception to a collision with New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri. The netminder unleashed a flurry of punches with his blocker as the forward was down on the ice.
The NHL rulebook covers punches with the blocker under roughing:
51.3 Match Penalty – If, in the judgment of the Referee, a goalkeeper uses his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face in an attempt to or to deliberately injure an opponent, a match penalty must be assessed.
There’s no question Price punched Palmieri. The lone head shot was a glancing blow, with the remainder of the punches — all good shots, no doubt — focused on Palmieri’s lower back.
It’s then up to the referees — Garrett Rank the near ref, with Kelly Sutherland positioned outside of the zone — to make the determination on intent to injure. In this case, it appears they felt that Price’s attack deserved the double-minor roughing penalty, but that it did not rise to the level that would justify a match penalty.
The league’s Department of Player Safety agreed, advising that no further disciplinary action would be taken against Price.
“I got run over on the first goal and I wasn’t going to take another one,” Price said after the game. “I got fired up, I guess. I’m going to stick up for myself now. That’s just the way it is.”
“It seems to be the nature of the league, to go hard to the net, run the goalie and score the goal,” said Price. “You have to stick up for yourself once in a while.”
Coach Michel Therrien also stuck up for his netminder.
“We totally did not agree when they rejected our challenge,” said Therrien. “[Price is] always calm and when he stands up for himself, you know something is wrong.”
Price may have been motivated by his perception that goaltender interference is no longer properly penalized.
“You’ll have to ask the league officials [about the decrease in interference calls],” Price said. “There’s no penalties being given anymore. A guy gets run over [and] there’s no goalie interference calls anymore. It just seems to only be called on a goal.”
Price is not the first guy to throw a blocker punch. Earlier this season, Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot punched Washington’s T.J. Oshie in the face, picking up just a minor for roughing.
It’s been a while since a goaltender has received a match penalty. Over the past decade, plenty of game misconducts have been issued, but no match penalties. Even Ray Emery’s attack on Braden Holtby failed to earn him a match. That attack resulted in an instigating minor penalty, a major penalty for fighting, a ten-minute misconduct for instigator and a game misconduct penalty for the aggressor in an altercation, all by the book in section 46.2.